8/2012

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Editor: Joyce Bates
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P. O. Box 5552
Greenville, SC 29606-
5552
June, 2012

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT SECULAR HUMANISTS
                                                       CALENDAR
Second Saturday Brunch, August 11th, 10:00AM to 12:00 noon, at Denny’s restaurant, 2521 Wade Hampton Blvd.
There will be no Fourth Saturday get together, but:
 The Annual Upstate Humanists Picnic will be at Shelter 30 in Cleveland Park (East Washington and Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville), Sunday August 26th from 1:30PM to 4:30PM. This invitation is open to all groups who participate in the Coalition for Reason.
Please bring a dish suitable for the picnic table.
The conversation group (non-theist) get-togethers for August are:
1st Sunday (August 5th) at 11:00AM and
3rd Sunday (August 19th) at 2:00PM
at the Brew and Ewe; 108 West Broad Street; Greenville.
The Free-Thought group meets every other Thursday August 9th and August 23rd); 7:00PM at Bailey’s; 2409 Laurens Road; Greenville.
                                                                   LEFTIES 
A friend of mine of over ten years asked me to sign a graduation card that a group of us were sending to the daughter of a mutual friend. As I took the card and positioned it to sign, she exclaimed: “Oh, I didn’t know you were left-handed!” and proceeded to tell me about a cousin who is very creative and artistic. This got me to thinking about the frequency with which left-handers go unnoticed but when they are finally discovered (usually belatedly), are frequently treated as creative anomalies. So, I decided to investigate and found that yes, left-handers are indeed ignored, but sadly, aren’t interesting anomalies except in a few isolated fields of endeavor and then not so much. Also, I was interested in how left-handers get to be that way. Was it rebellion against social pressure or from a physical inheritance? Why, for example, did my parents, two strong right-handers beget two left-handed children?
Most people assume that handedness is a genetic trait. Nearly all humans express dominance in one hand compared to other mammals including primates. However, the average percentage of right to left-handers in any given human population averages 90 percent and that is not a classic dominant ratio of three to four. A closer look at the statistic also reveals that the number of left-handers dwindles from 15 percent at age 10 to about two and a half percent at age 80. The finding is confirmed in 34 separate studies. The common explanation for the decrease is that social pressure to use the right hand in writing and other activities causes lefties to eventually change hands.
It is true that strong handedness (either left or right) as opposed to ambidextrousness is inherited, but inheritance does not appear to determine whether a person is left or right handed. Surprisingly, pre-natal development and difficult birth situations are. During pregnancy the right side of the brain develops first, the left side catches up but continues with its rapid and longer development well after the right brain slows down. Statistically, damage to the left-brain is more likely to occur during late term pregnancy, difficult birth situations, and older mothers. The left-brain controls the right hand and the ability to both speak and understand language. The suspicion here is that something happens during the delicate late period of development and birth, and the right brain is obliged to become dominant, thus causing left-handedness. Research goes to reveal data showing that the incidence of left-handedness is above the average for auto-immune disease and a number of behavioral and mental disorders.
It is time for all right hand readers to say “Who cares?” and left hand readers to say “I spent all this time struggling with a right-handed world and now I have a birth defect?”Not to worry. Even though there is an increased percentage for left-handers for bad things, there is also a whopping majority of right-handers with these same problems.
The social environment exacerbates difficulties for a left-hander. Writing is the familiar right hand bias. Writing from left to right causes a right-hander to naturally slope the letters to the right. At the same time he keeps his hand out of the way of smudging what he has just written. Left-handers turn their hands to the top of the writing or keep it well below the letters to avoid smudge and push the pencil rather than pull to achieve the slant. Most left-handers simply skip the slant and write straight up and down from underneath the text.
The lefty is confronted with right handed scissors, garden shears, can openers, pouring utensils, single-bevel knives, hand-mixers, electric food-slicers, spiral notebooks, rulers, portable school desks, magazines, screws, twist lids, corkscrews, drill presses, band saws, portable drills and power saws, and chain saws. These are only a sample from a long list. Safety switches are nearly always designed for convenient use to the right thumb. Fishing rods have the reel on the right side. Bolt-action rifles have the operating lever on the right side. Heavy farming and construction equipment have the most frequently used controls on the right side. It is no wonder that an impromptu survey at a cedar log mill in Western Canada presented the following scenario: There were 17 right-handers and 4 left-handers working at the mill. Two of the right-handers were missing parts of digits due to accident; all of the left-handers were.
Driving an automobile has its problems, too. The accelerator, brake and gear-shift are all positioned for the right side of the body. There is a subtler disadvantage for lefties. They are more likely to reflexively turn the steering wheel counter-clockwise when faced with sudden danger. This puts them into oncoming traffic. This is not a problem where traffic is on the right side of the road and safe for right-handers, but in places like Britain and Ireland it is. And traffic accident statistics bear this out. If you need a designated driver, make sure they are right-handed.
For those old enough to remember, there was a flurry of ridicule in the press over President Ford’s clumsiness. The first incident occurred when the President turned unexpectedly to the left, knocked into one of his aides, lost his balance and nearly fell down a flight of stairs while disembarking from a plane. We now know that, at that time, there was no left-hand protocol for presidents. During Reagan’s presidency protocol was changed to allow him plenty of room to move in any direction without incident. It’s a good thing, too, because five out of seven of the most recent presidents have been left-handed.
So, left-handers are not so lucky. They not only have more health risks, but they have to adjust to a right-handed world, that, for them is clumsy and dangerous. Adjust they do. Below is a random short list of noteworthy lefties.
Albert Einstein                         H. G. Wells                      Oprah Winfrey
Albert Schweitzer                    Helen Keller                     Oscar de la Hoya
Albrect Drurer                         Henry Ford                       Paul Klee
Babe Ruth                                Jimmy Hendrix                Paul McCartney
Ben Franklin                            John McCain                   Queen Victoria
Bill Gates                                 Judy Garland                   Raphael
Buzz Aldrin                              Leonardo da Vinci           Ross Perot
Clarence Darrow                      Lewis Carrol                    Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Cole Porter                               M. C. Escher                    Shoeless Joe Jackson
Dorothy Hamill                        Marilyn Monroe              Terry Labonte
Edward R. Murrow                  Mark Spitz                       Ty Cobb
Fidel Castro                             Marvin Hagler                  Uri Geller
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf     Greg Louganis
                                                            
References:
http://www.nldontario.org/articles/VisualSpatialDiversity.html
http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/left.html
The Left-Hander Syndrome; Stanley Coren; 1992; Free Press.
                                                         SEVEN DEADLY SINS 
We are confronted with a lot of  “noise” when we attempt to sift through the daily bombardment of junk ads and information. The tome of advertising included in a Sunday newspaper is enough to cause a hernia. The mailbox is so stuffed with entreaties to buy, that there’s no way anyone will find a bill in the mess. We are thankful to pay online, but even there, we are peppered with requests to read or listen to offers we can drink, eat, save, get free, or brag about to friends.
Recently I noticed that, in a subtle way, all this marketing appeals to five of the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, envy, and pride. No ads appeal to wrath. No one wants help losing his temper. As for sloth, although there are plenty of labor saving devises out there, most don’t really cater to a truly lazy person, but sloth will be mentioned below.
Lust is the most obvious. Just by watching re-runs on television or listening to talk radio you can hear plenty of advertisements for supplements to enhance male virility. (Sorry guys.) On the radio these are usually followed by legally required rapidly spoken warnings denying any medical foundation for the product. On the TV the warnings are written in the smallest print possible somewhere on the screen and they don’t stay there long enough to be read. Some female friends of mine have complained they repeatedly get these ads on line.
Gluttony is an easy one. Two-for-one in pizza commercials and buy-one-get-one-free in the super market come to mind right away. A lot of people still don’t know that, in the super market, if you only buy one, you can get it for half the price of the buy-one-get-one-free. Restaurants encourage gluttony with “all you can eat”. For serving sizes, the larger they make the portion, the more you have to pay, which is good for them, but you don’t get to choose the size of your portion- except for large, extra large, and super.
Technically, the two-for-one also appeals to greed. One can eat twice as much and think they are getting more for their money, even if they are not. Most people are led to believe they are really saving money when they buy-one-get-one-free, but “FREE” is always emphasized in big letters and directly implies something for nothing. Admittedly, the ads target an audience that, in greed at least, can’t compare to Wall Street or gambling casino entrepreneurs. Those places are carefully designed to transfer money from the unsuspecting amateur to the accomplished expert.
Envy and pride go together. Ads for luxury cars, sophisticated electronics, and spacious homes target our feelings of inadequacy when we compare ourselves to some of our neighbors, friends, or family. There’s always someone in our social environment that has something we’d like to have, too. If we buy a new car, hd TV, or a five thousand square foot house our friends and family will then envy us and we can be proud. They don’t have to know we are deeper in debt and we don’t really know if they are deeper in debt, but they probably are.
Many ads seem to appeal to slothfulness, but they are misleading. Americans have to work hard in response to these marketing ploys. A good example is lawn care. Originally only the very rich had lawns that were manicured by professionals. Now this behemoth of labor belongs to the inhabitant of the subdivision and there’s always someone in the neighborhood that sets an unreasonably high standard for maintenance. Ergo there are countless products dedicated to keeping the yard in perfect condition with less work. Ironically, riding mowers, weed whackers, and power shears are not exclusively designed to make the work easy. They are necessary for the prevention of heart attack and heat stroke for the unfortunate who tries to save himself a few bucks by dedicating his weekend to mowing.
Come to think of it, there may be more the seven sins. Vanity comes to mind, right away. So many commercials offer to make us look better, but very few of us look anywhere as good as the models in the ads do.
Keeping the above in mind, it might be entertaining to match sins with ads in the future. The exercise is fun and serves to remind us that we really are better human beings than the imaginary people the ads pretend to address.                    JB
                                                    VOLTAIRE (1694-1778)
The sayings below are over 200 years old, but since human nature doesn’t much change, they serve us just as well today as in the 17thcentury. Voltaire was an advocate of freedom of religion, speech, trade, and separation of church and state.  Although, there is no evidence he was an atheist, he certainly had a sense of humor about it.
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”
“It is forbidden to kill, therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
“God is a comedian playing to an audience afraid to laugh.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
And this last, claimed by some who said it was his deathbed answer when asked by a priest to renounce Satan:
“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”
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